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The power to light up people’s lives
- Green Oscar opens door to grants and aid for alternative energy sources

From lighting up remote villages with renewable energy sources in the Sagar Islands to doing the country proud by bagging the Green Oscar (Ashden Award) in London — city-based energy specialist S.P. Gon Choudhuri has suddenly shot into fame and multilateral agencies have started queuing up, offering grants and aids.

At a function organised by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) on Friday, the award-winning scientist was felicitated in the presence of industries and commerce minister Nirupam Sen, power minister Mrinal Bandyopadhyay and WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee.

“There are over four million people in the Sunderbans, where electrification using the conventional method is impossible. With solar energy, we have reached 1.5 million people in 56 villages, spread over 11 islands,” says the middle-aged electrical engineer and a staunch supporter of sustainable development.

For Gon Choudhuri, the international recognition may be an “achievement” for him and the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA), but the real task lies in changing people’s lives with power. “There are 276 villages in the delta and we have to reach them by 2007,” he sets the target.

“We are proud of his achievement and will extend all our support for further research and development in identifying alternative energy sources,” said Sen, during the felicitation.

But making electricity available to the whole of the Sunderbans will be easier said than done, as it will require over Rs 250 crore. “Besides seeking funds from the government, we will approach international agencies,” mentions Gon Choudhuri. And with World Bank and UNDP already approaching him, prospects of the Sunderbans’ electrification have brightened.

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